Tag Archives: medicinal plants

Ethnobotany of the Balti Community, Pakistan

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Ethnobotany of the Balti community, Tormik valley, Karakorum range, Baltistan, Pakistan

Abbas Z, Khan SM, Abbasi AM, et al
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2016 Sep 9;12(1):38
PubMed Central: PMC5018187

Investigators at Hazara University, Quaid-i-Azam University, COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, South China University of Technology, University of Gastronomic Sciences, and University of Swat conducted a study “to document the ethnobotanical knowledge of the local peoples in the Tormik Valley, especially in the medical and food domains.”

The Tormik Valley is home to the Balti ethnic group:

“Overall in the Baltistan region (province), Mongol, Mon, Hor, Brokpa and Kashmiris are the prominent ethnic groups with the local languages being Balti and Shina (Broq-skat); however, the studied valley hosts a single ethnic group: the Balti. This ethnic group is comprised of thirty-one lineage groups known as qoum and speaks Balti as their local language. The population of the valley is approximately 5,000 inhabitants comprising 706 households. The people of this region migrated to the study area from other parts of Baltistan, as well as other regions, before the birth of the founder of Buddhism, Guatama Budha (563 BC).”

The team gathered ethnobotanical data using semi-structured interviews and group conversation with 69 participants during field trips in 14 different villages, and documented 63 plant species with detailed folk uses, including 43% used to treat various diseases, 21% consumed as wild fruits and vegetables, and 53% with multipurpose applications.

This is the first in-depth ethnomedicinal survey of the Tormik valley:

“In mountainous ecosystems such as the Karakorum range, often inadequate nutrition remains a major problem resulting in various diseases. The local inhabitants in these areas have developed traditional methods of curing such common health problems, which in turn can provide important data for devising public health policies. The Karakorum mountain range, situated at the junction of western and central Asiatic regions of Tethyan flora, is one of the most diverse habitats in the world. The Baltistan province of Pakistan is home to more than a dozen geographically isolated and botanically unexplored valleys in the Karakorum Range. Although a number of previous ethnobotanical investigations have been conducted in surrounding areas, many of these studies did not use quantitative methods. Moreover, Tormik Valley repeatedly went unnoticed, perhaps due to its high altitude, harsh and hostile climate, inaccessibility and prevailing poverty. A large proportion of its inhabitants depend on herbal remedies. They are known as the trustees of cultural knowledge whether related to plants, animals, fungi, lichens, or stones.”

Hippophae rhamnoides
Hippophae rhamnoides [Source: Wikimedia Commons, Carl Axel Magnus Lindman, «Bilder ur Nordens Flora» Stockholm]
Twenty-six medicinal plant species were used to treat human ailments, including gastrointestinal diseases, dermatitis, jaundice, hepatitis, cancer, pneumonia, tonic, asthma, urinary disorders, joint pain, and eye pain. Thymus linearis, Hippophae rhamnoides, and Convolvulus arvensis were the most used medicinal plant species.

The authors note several implications for public health and environmental policies:

“…[I]t is clear that stomach related health problems (ulcers, constipation, GIT infections, jaundice), and skin diseases (dermatitis) are the most prevalent health problems in the area. Stomach disorders are likely due to malnutrition and unhygienic food utilization. Skin problems can be attributed to the high altitude of the study area, where radiation from the sun tends to be more intense and potentially mutagenic. People traditionally treat such diseases with food-medicines, which in many cases are quite effective. Hence, the present findings provide very important insights for public-health officials, to formulate health policies taking into account the common health issues and Traditional Medicine practiced by the local people as part of their primary healthcare.
“…The present study revealed that the valleys in the Karakorum Mountains in Northern Pakistan support a notable Traditional Knowledge on the local plants. Wild food plants have represented the milestone of the traditional food systems and could still represent a pillar of the local food sovereignty, while medicinal plants play a vital role, which need to be reconsidered and carefully re-evaluated by ethnopharmacologists and public health actors. The collected data may be also of interest to initiatives aimed at fostering sustainable rural development in an area that faces serious economic problems, widespread illiteracy, and isolation. The findings of this paper advocate the need for comprehensive trans-disciplinary researches aimed to ensure the dynamic conservation of invaluable local knowledge systems, as well as plant diversity in Pakistani mountain regions.”

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.




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The Glocal Nature of Waldensian Ethnobotany

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Isolated, but transnational: the glocal nature of Waldensian ethnobotany, Western Alps, NW Italy

Bellia G, Pieroni A
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2015 May 7;11:37
PubMed Central: PMC4495842

A Waldensian Mountain Cottage
A Waldensian Mountain Cottage (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Keystone View Company Studios, 1881 [Public Domain])
Investigators at the University of Gastronomic Sciences conducted an ethnobotanical field study of traditional uses of wild plants for food and medicinal/veterinary purposes among Waldensian communities in the Western Alps of Italy.

Working with forty-seven elderly informants (typically small-scale farmers and shepherds), the team documented the uses of 85 wild and semi-domesticated food folk taxa, 96 medicinal folk taxa, and 45 veterinary folk taxa. Commonly used medicinal plants included Arnica montana, Artemisia absinthium, Abies alba, and Chelidonium majus.

Arnica montana
Arnica montana (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen, 1896 [Public Domain])
The authors conclude that local plants play an important role in food security and the management of human and animal health in these communities, and may constitute a key resource for sustainable development in the area:

“A marked persistence of local knowledge regarding these plants among Waldensians confirms the importance of studying enclaves as well as cultural and linguistic “isles” in ethnobotany, which may represent both crucial reservoirs of folk knowledge and bio-cultural refugia.

On the other hand, the findings of this study indicate that a proper conservation of the bio-cultural heritage, such as the ethnobotanical one, requires strategies, which carefully consider natural landscapes and resources as well as cultural and religious customs, since plant folk knowledge systems are the result of a continuous interplay between these two domains over centuries.

Finally, these neglected local plant resources may represent a key issue for fostering a sustainable development in an area of the Alps, which has been largely untouched by mass tourism and is looking with particular interest at eco-touristic trajectories.”

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.




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Medicinal Plants of Eastern Madagascar

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Medicinal plants used to treat the most frequent diseases encountered in Ambalabe rural community, Eastern Madagascar

Rakotoarivelo NH, Rakotoarivony F, Ramarosandratana AV et al.
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2015 Sep 15;11:68
PubMed Central: PMC4570514

Investigators from the Missouri Botanical Garden, University of Antananarivo, and Washington University in St. Louis inventoried medicinal plants used to treat diseases frequently occurring among residents of Ambalabe in eastern Madagascar.

Working with residents of Vatomandry District (which includes the rural community of Ambalabe and Vohibe Forest [a protected area established in 2008]), the team identified diarrhea, malaria, stomach-ache, cough, bilharzia (schistosomiasis), and dysentery as the most frequently occurring diseases and 83 medicinal plant species used to treat those diseases.

Litchi chinensis
Litchi chinensis [Photo: B.navez, WikiMedia Commons]
Plant species commonly used to treat the diseases included Mollugo nudicaulis, Litchi chinensis, Kalanchoe prolifera, and Paederia thouarsiana. Less than half of the medicinal plants were collected in Vohibe Forest, the rest were cultivated or collected around the villages, in house yards, and in crop fields.

In their conclusion, the authors note that while the local population retains important knowledge about medicinal plants, many of those species might be threatened:

“[T]his paper provides new information on medicinal plants used by the local population in Ambalabe community to fight against frequent diseases. Some species seemed new to sciences or sometimes have new uses never recorded. Further pharmacological studies will be needed to better understand the importance of traditional medicine. Besides, because 83 species were used to treat six most frequent diseases, their conservation should be considered as important to ensure sustainable future use, especially due to the fact that most of them were collected in the surroundings of the villages and in non-protected areas. Sustainable management techniques should be considered, especially for Malagasy endangered species.”

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.




Medicinal Plants of Trinidad

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An ethnobotanical survey of medicinal plants in Trinidad

Clement YN, Baksh-Comeau YS, Seaforth CE
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2015 Sep 15;11:67
PubMed Central: PMC4570261

Location of Trinidad and Tobago
Location of Trinidad and Tobago [Map: Vardian, Wikimedia Commons]
Investigators from The University of the West Indies and The University of Trinidad and Tobago conducted the first systematic ethnobotanical survey to identify medicinal plants commonly used in traditional medicine across the Caribbean island of Trinidad.

The authors describe Trinidad’s unique geology, flora and fauna, and human characteristics:

“The island of Trinidad which lies approximately 13 km off the coast of the Paria Peninsula of Venezuela is the larger of the twin-island state of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. The island has a population of approximately 1.3 million people with about 77% being either of African or Asian Indian ancestry or an admixture of these major ethnic groups. Unlike other Caribbean islands, Trinidad is a continental island sharing its geology, flora and fauna, with South America having recently separated from the mainland ca. 10,000 years ago. This gives Trinidad a unique mix of Antillean and South American elements in its flora and fauna. However, the natural vegetation has been significantly transformed in the post-Columbian era with the arrival of the Europeans, West Africans and the East Indians.”

23220590015_1a198798e3_m
Cymbopogon citratus [Photo: WAH, Flickr]
Based on interviews in 50 rural communities, the team identified 917 plant remedies from 96 species including Leonotis nepetifolia, Neurolaena lobata, Cymbopogon citratus, Momordica charantia, and Stachytarpheta jamaicensis. The authors detail uses for ailments affecting the upper respiratory tract and the genitourinary tract, chronic diseases (e.g., diabetes mellitus, hypertension), and for “cooling-cleansing” and treatment of fever.

While noting evidence of antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and related pharmacological activities of some of the plants in laboratory studies, the authors advise caution in interpretation pending clinical studies:

“Although the literature shows limited pre-clinical evidence to demonstrate pharmacological activities for some of the plants cited in our survey, this must be taken cautiously, as this level of evidence does not represent the reality in the traditional use setting. Firstly, the pre-clinical evidence comes from studies utilizing solvent extracts, fractions, or isolated compounds which are not the modality traditionally used. Secondly, the concentrations of putative components in these solvent extracts, fractions or isolated compounds used in pre-clinical experiments may be significantly higher than that which could be attained following oral administration, thus making the extrapolations to the clinical setting unjustified. However, there are a few promising examples, such as Senna (an FDA-approved non-prescription laxative) which has been clinically proven to be efficacious. A similar approach is needed to determine the clinical efficacy of other herbal remedies.

“However, the identification of these medicinal plants provides a platform from which further pre-clinical and clinical studies could be formulated to determine the efficacy and safety of herbal preparations. These research efforts may provide alternative and/or complementary approaches for healthcare provision in the Caribbean and beyond.”

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.




Medicinal Plants of the Russian Pharmacopoeia

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Medicinal plants of the Russian Pharmacopoeia; their history and applications

Shikov AN, Pozharitskaya ON, Makarov VG, et al
J Ethnopharmacol. 2014 Jul 3;154(3):481-536
PubMed: 24742754

Investigators from the St. Petersburg Institute of Pharmacy, Ludwig Maximilian University, Leiden University, and UCL School of Pharmacy conducted a review to summarize and critically appraise data concerning plants used in Russian medicine that are not included in the European Pharmacopoeia.

Using the State Pharmacopoeia of the USSR (11th edition), the team selected 32 plant species that have not yet been adopted in Western and Central Europe and systematically searched the scientific literature for data regarding species, effectiveness, pharmacological effects, and safety.

Bidens tripartita
Bidens tripartita [Photo: Fornax, Wikimedia Commons]
Plants with reported pharmacologic uses included anti-inflammatory agents (e.g., Bidens tripartita); diaphoretic and anti-inflammatory agents (e.g., Viburnum opulus); hypotensive, anti-inflammatory, and choleretic agents (e.g., Gnaphalium uliginosum); bitterants (appetite stimulants) (e.g., Herba centaurii [Centaurium erythraea, C. minus, Erythraea centaurium, C. pulchellum]); astringents (e.g., Alnus incana, A. glutinosa); choleretic agents (e.g., Helichrysum arenarium); antihelmintic and choleretic agents (e.g., Tanacetum vulgare); expectorants (e.g., Ledum palustre); diuretic agents (e.g., Viburnum opulus); cardiotonic agents (e.g., Adonis vernalis); cardiovascular agents (e.g., Crataegus sanguinea); haemostatic agents (e.g., Persicaria hydropiper); spasmolytic agents (e.g., Anethum graveolens); sedatives (e.g., Herba Leonuri [Leonurus cardiaca, Leonurus quinquelobatus/Leonurus cardiaca]); polyvitamins (e.g., Sorbus aucuparia); regulation of metabolism and anti-inflammatory agents (e.g., Fungus betulinus/Inonotus obliquus); and tonics (e.g., Aralia elata).

The review includes a history of herbal medicine in Russia, including observations on the unique position of Russian phytotherapy between European and Asian traditional medicine:

“In the nineteenth century, European physicians had completely forgotten about the herbal traditions that had once predominated in their countries, whereas Chinese healers had almost no awareness of the medical developments in the West. Russian doctors were unique because they knew of both their own folk-herbal tradition and of modern Western medicine.”

Read the complete article at PubMed.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

Medicinal Dietary Plants Used by the Naxi People of Northwest Yunnan

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Ethnobotanical survey of medicinal dietary plants used by the Naxi People in Lijiang Area, Northwest Yunnan, China

Zhang L, Zhang Y, Pei S, et al
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2015 May 12;11:40
PubMed Central: PMC4449607

Investigators from the Kunming Institute of Botany, South China Botanical Garden, and University of Chinese Academy of Sciences conducted the first ethnobotanical survey to document species used as medicinal dietary plants by the Naxi people in northwest Yunnan.

The Naxi are indigenous people of the Lijiang region who have a long-standing knowledge of diet therapy:

The Tea Horse Road
The Tea Horse Road [Map: Yerius J, Wikimedia Commons]
“The Naxi are a Burmo-Naxi-Lolo sociolinguistic sub-group of the Tibeto-Burman group within the Sino-Tibetan family. The Naxi population was formed during the southward migration of the ancient Qiang people during the Qin Dynasty (221–206 BC), who had originally inhabited the Hehuang area of Northwest China. The Naxi are indigenous residents of the Ancient Tea Horse Road, a trade link documented since the Tang dynasty (618–907 CE) which lasted until the 1960s, and stretched across Yunnan, Sichuan and Tibetan provinces. The road promoted exchanges in culture, religion and ethnic migration, resembling the Silk Road. Given this history, the medicine of the Naxi integrates traditional Chinese, Tibetan, and Shamanic medicinal systems. Prior research indicates that the Naxi culture promotes diet therapy, and documentation of many of their traditional medicines and diet remedies exists through the world’s only remaining pictographic writing system. Despite the renewed interest in medicinal diets by scientists, consumers, and industry, not much is known about the medicinal dietary plants used by the Naxi, or their associated ethnobotanical knowledge.”

Pinus armandii with Deer and Red-Crested Crane
Pinus armandii with Deer and Red-Crested Crane [Photo: Philg88, Wikimedia Commons]
Working with 89 local participants from three Naxi villages, the team identified 55 botanical taxa (species, varieties, or subspecies) used as medicinal dietary plants to treat health conditions including fatigue; lung ailments; eye diseases; insomnia; cold; stomachache; abdominal pain; bruises; constipation; postpartum blood stasis; postpartum weakness; nervousness; and poor lactation. Aconitum stapfianum, several Cirsium species, Ligusticum chuanxiong, Pinus armandii, Polygonatum cirrhifolium, and Zanthoxylum bungeanum were among the plants most widely used for medicinal dietary purposes.

The authors recommend a rigorous scientific approach to any extrapolation of Naxi dietary plant therapy to broader populations:

“The medicinal dietary plants used by the Naxi people are diverse. The lives of the Naxi people are closely related with the use of medicinal dietary plants and their associated knowledge of these plants is extensive. These plants are easy to collect and prepare, and are widely used when needed by the Naxi people. The main theory behind the traditional medicinal diet of the Naxi people is to prevent disease by strengthening the body. A wide spectrum of disorders can be treated by medicinal diets. Most plants have a high fidelity level and are widely used. However, the safety of some medicinal dietary plants is not well understood, and the nutritional elements are unclear. Scientific evidence on the safety, detoxification, and nutrition of medicinal dietary plants of the Naxi people must be established before these medicinal dietary plants can be adopted by modern society to improve health and prevent diseases.”

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

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Medicinal Plants Used by the Maonan People of Southwest China

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Ethnobotanical study on medicinal plants used by Maonan people in China

Hong L, Guo Z, Huang K, et al
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2015 Apr 30;11:32
PubMed Central: PMC4449599

Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, China
Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, China [Map: TUBS, Wikimedia Commons]
Investigators from Minzu University of China, Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Kunming Institute of Botany conducted an ethnobotanical study of traditional medicinal plants and associated knowledge of the Maonan indigenous people living in Huanjiang Maonan Autonomous County, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, southwest China.

The authors note both the richness and precariousness of Maonan ethnomedicinal knowledge:

“As one of the indigenous minorities, Maonan is mainly living in Huanjiang Maonan Autonomous County, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, southwest China. The exceptional altitudinal range, topography and climatic variability in this region have fostered a center of plant species endemism. Here the majority of Maonan people rely on medicinal plants for self-medication. The Maonan medicine has made a great contribution to protect the health of local people. This is due to free access to medicinal herbs, cultural traditions and high cost of hospital treatments in the town nearby. Local people widely utilize endemic species, and they have developed their own traditional medicinal knowledge. Without writing language, Maonan people pass on their indigenous knowledge from generation to generation orally. Nowadays, the Maonan children spend most of their time in schools, where they are taught in Han language. This decreases their chances to learn about the uses of the medicinal plants from the old people. Therefore, important information about medicinal plants is easily lost in the transfer process of indigenous knowledge. With the impact of increasing modern health facilities and modern civilization in Maonan area, indigenous knowledge is depleting rapidly. Although a number of ethnobotanical documentations about several ethnic groups have been published during the past decades in China, few field ethnobotanical studies have been conducted in Maonan society. It is therefore necessary to carry out a survey to document the medicinal plants and associated indigenous knowledge in Maonan region.”

In this context, the team worked to document and analyze the knowledge and use of medicinal plants by Maonan people in support of further multidisciplinary research, future phytochemical and pharmacological discovery, and conservation of knowledge and biodiversity.

Houttuynia cordata
Houttuynia cordata [Photo: Bouba, Wikimedia Commons]
Working with more than a hundred participants in eighteen villages, the team documented 368 medicinal plant species used to treat 95 human diseases. The most frequently used medicinal plants were Acanthopanax trifoliatus, Buddleja officinalis, Houttuynia cordata, Litsea pungens, Murraya exotica, Nephrolepis cordifolia, Paederia scandens, Platycodon grandiflorus, Rauvolfia verticillata, Rubus parvifolius, Sargentodoxa cuneata, Talinum paniculatum, and Tetrapanax papyrifer.

In addition to their medicinal value, most of the medicinal plants were also valued for their economic, edible, and ornamental qualities. In particular, the Maonans prioritize disease prevention and emphasize the function of medicinal food in ordinary life, adding medicinal plants into food for the purposes of enhancing immunity and disease resistance.

The authors conclude with an urgent recommendation to government agencies to develop sustainable programs to conserve and transmit the Maonan’s traditional knowledge:

“The species diversity of medicinal plants used by the Maonans in the study area was very rich. Medicinal plants played a significant role in healing various human disorders in the Maonan communities. However, the conflicts between traditional inheriting system and recent socio-economic changes (and other factors) resulted in the reduction or loss of both medicinal plants and associated indigenous knowledge. Thus, conservation efforts and policies, and innovation of inheriting system are necessary for protecting the medicinal plants and associated indigenous knowledge. Awareness is also needed to be raised among local Maonans focusing on sustainable utilization and management of both medicinal plants and traditional knowledge.”

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

A Comparative Ethnobotanical Study of the Cholistan Desert & Pothwar Plateau of Pakistan

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A comparative ethno-botanical study of Cholistan (an arid area) and Pothwar (a semi-arid area) of Pakistan for traditional medicines

Malik S, Ahmad S, Sadiq A, et al
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2015 Apr 30;11:31
PubMed Central: PMC4460735

Cholistan Desert & Indus River Basin
Cholistan Desert & Indus River Basin [Photo: NASA, Wikimedia Commons]
Investigators at the National University of Sciences and Technology, University of Sargodha, Islamia University of Bahawalpur, and American University of Ras Al Khaimah conducted an ethnobotanical study to compare and document therapeutic flora, their use, and traditional knowledge of residents of the Cholistan Desert and Pothwar (Potohar) Plateau of  Pakistan.

In their introduction, the authors note both the paucity of published ethnobotanical research and the risk of loss of indigenous knowledge from these regions:

“Data regarding ethnobotanical or ethnopharmacologically characteristics of the plants of Cholistan desert and Pothwar is almost non-existent except very few reports. The main objective of present study is to explore the relationship between local culture of folk people and plants in the pursuit of drug development and medical breakthroughs. The herbal treatments in respective regions are favored over the allopathic ones for their low cost and less side effects. The most important objective of this study is the preservation of local plant knowledge. Loss of the indigenous knowledge is a threat to the poor rural economies based on traditional livestock farming as that in the deserts like Cholistan or semi-arid area like Pothwar. It was, therefore, deemed imperative to document the ethnobotany knowledge possessed by the people of respective areas. In addition to this, present study will be a yardstick to probe standardization and systematic exploration of traditional herbs.”

Acacia nilotica
Acacia nilotica [Photo: J.M.Garg, Wikimedia Commons]
The team documented 67 plant species used in the traditional treatment of human diseases in the Cholistan Desert, and 86 species used in the treatment human diseases in the Pothwar Plateau. Medicinal plants used in both regions (10.5% of the total) included Acacia nilotica, Boerhavia procumbens, Calotropis procera, Citrullus colocynthis, Cyperus rotundus, Peganum harmala, Solanum surattense, Withania somnifera, and Ziziphus nummularia.

The findings from the Cholistan Desert are of particular interest (for example, roughly half of all plant species endemic to the region are used for medicinal purposes):

“Cholistan Desert is uniquely located in wild land with dearth of endemic flora counting only 128 species belonging to 32 families. During the present study people including local elders (Siana), herbal and homoeopathic practitioners and spiritual healers were interviewed. They play an imperative role in primary healthcare of the local inhabitants as the majority of their clients come from poor families who cannot meet the expense of the modern healthcare services. As said by traditional healers, the local people are still dependent on wild plants for prime healthcare owing to the widespread faith in its efficiency. According to the current survey, local people for curing various diseases, commonly use 67 plant species belonging to 29 families. The diseases cured vary from simple stomachache to more complicated such as male and female urino-genital disorders…. 14 plant species are being used for the treatment of gastrointestinal tract disorders. Moreover, it is observed that 16 plant species are consumed as antibacterial and cure for skin diseases. 10 of the plant species are particularly utilized for respiratory tract problems, whereas, for musculoskeletal and joint disorders 10 plant species are used. There are 5 species being consumed for the male sexual disorders, and 10 species for the female sexual disorders. For urinary tract infections 5 plant species have been exploited, and 10 plant species are being consumed as anti-diabetics. In addition to this, traditional healers are using 14 plant species to cure fever, 7 plant species to cure liver diseases, 9 plant species to treat jaundice and renal stones are being cured with 6 plant species. Five plants including Heliotropium strigosum, Withania somnifera, Mukia maderaspatana, Cymbopogon jwarancusa, and Peganum harmala are commonly used for the treatment of CNS disorders, like dementia.”

The authors recommend further documentation and preservation of this rich and unique traditional knowledge, which is in imminent danger of loss, as well as conservation of the medicinal plant species themselves and research on their pharmacological activity.

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

Plants Used for Digestive System Disorders by the Karen of Thailand

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Ethnomedicinal plants used for digestive system disorders by the Karen of northern Thailand

Tangjitman K, Wongsawad C, Kamwong K, et al
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2015 Apr 9;11:27
PubMed Central: PMC4422539

Investigators at Chiang Mai University and Royal Park Rajapruek conducted an ethnobotanical study to document plants used by Karen people of Chiang Mai Province, northern Thailand, to treat and prevent digestive system disorders.

The authors open the paper with an introduction of the Karen:

“The Karen originated in Tibet and had migrated to other parts of Southeast Asia, particularly Myanmar. From the 18th century onwards they began to cross the Salween River and moved into Thailand, where they settled in the high mountains of Chiang Mai, Mae Hong Son and Lamphun provinces, as well as other areas. In 2003, the Karen people constituted 48% of the total hill tribe population in the region with a population more than 430,000 Karens in Thailand. As they typically reside in the mountain areas, the Karen people have limited access to public healthcare systems. They have therefore accumulated a rich experience related to preventing and treating diseases with herbal remedies, and they have developed a distinctive knowledge of traditional medicine. This traditional knowledge has been handed down from one generation to the next by spoken word and through lifestyle. Most Karen villagers still maintain traditional knowledge of medicinal plants that are used for first aid remedies and to treat simple ailments.”

The team documented 36 plant species used by the Karen to treat digestive system disorders including diarrhea, flatulence, constipation, gastric ulcer, and jaundice.

Curcuma longa
Curcuma longa [Photo: J.M.Garg, Wikimedia Commons]
The medicinal plant species identified included Curcuma longa, Dendrocalamus strictus, Dillenia pentagyna, Engelhardtia spicata, Euphorbia heterophylla, Gymnopetalum integrifolium, Melastoma malabathricum, Musa sapientum, Psidium guajava, Punica granatum, Senna alata, Senna occidentalis, Zingiber montanum, and Zingiber ottensii.

In their conclusion, the authors recommend further research to determine the biological activities of medicinal plants:

“Digestive system disorders have a high prevalence in terms of the morbidity rate among Thai people. This is also considered to be true worldwide, particularly among ethnic people who likely have inadequate access to hygienic levels of sanitation, which may increase the transmission of digestive diseases. The study of medicinal plants among the Karen people of northern Thailand has reported that 36 species were commonly used against digestive system disorders. A literature investigation found that several surveyed plants had similar usage with other ethnic groups in different areas throughout the world. Moreover, the pharmacological studies of some of the medicinal plants could confirm that these plants are considered effective in treating digestive diseases. However, some medicinal plants, which were reported to have high UV and FL values, still require further pharmacological research for the discovery of new compounds and biological activities of these potential medicinal plants. There were certain toxic effects that were found to have been associated with some of these plants. Therefore, herbal remedies should be taken carefully in order to avoid any potential side effects that may occur through utilizing these medicinal plants.”

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

Wild Plants Used by Lhoba People in Tibet

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Ethnobotanical study on wild plants used by Lhoba people in Milin County, Tibet

Li F, Zhuo J, Liu B, et al
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2015 Mar 24;11:23
PubMed Central: PMC4374410

Mainling (Milin) County, Tibet
Mainling (Milin) County, Tibet [Map: Croquant, Wikimedia Commons]
Investigators from Minzu University of China, Yunnan Agricultural University, Kunming Institute of Botany of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Bioversity International conducted an ethnobotanical study to document wild plant species used by Lhoba peoples living in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China.

The authors begin by presenting some richly complex ethnogeographical context for their study:

“The southeast area of Tibet is one of the 25 biodiversity hotspots in the world. The area is rich in biological resources due to its subtropical humid and semi-humid climate, which extend over extreme elevational differences. Rich medicinal plant resources are distributed in different geographical areas of the region. The region that Nanyi Village is located in has been regarded as a sacred site, and called “Medicinal Lord’s Valley” by healers. The people living in Milin consist primarily of three ethnic groups: the Tibetan, the Monpa (or Moinba or Menba), and the Lhoba (or Luoba). The Lhoba are distributed in three counties of the Nyingchi (Linzhi) Prefecture: Milin, Medog, and Zayü, and in Lhünzê County of the Shannan Prefecture. Researchers have speculated that the Lhoba might be from the integration of several ancient tribes of the southeastern Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Before the Chinese government recognized and decided on “Lhoba” as their unified name in 1965, each tribe had an independent name and a different dialect, “Bo’gaer”, “Bengni”, and “Miguba”. “Lhoba” is derived from pronunciation of which means “southerner” in the Tibetan language”, and has been used to refer to the people living in Lhoyü, Tibet. According to the 2010 census, there are only 3,682 Lhoba in the modern-day Tibet Autonomous Region in China, and Milin County contains the largest population of Lhoba (Bo’gaer tribal group) that lacks a mixed inhabitation with other ethnic groups. Before the 1960s, the Lhoba mainly lived on the abundant plant resources in the Tibetan mountain valleys. They practiced swidden agriculture, in addition to hunting and gathering activities. For centuries, these plant resources have provided the Lhoba’s most important source for medicine and food supplements. The Lhoba have a rich information base of ethnobotanical knowledge for describing and using these species.”

In addition to documenting the traditional ethnobotanical knowledge of the Lhoba, delineating the relationships between the Lhoba and their living environment, and reviewing the impact of Tibetan culture on this knowledge, the team also examined whether the ethnobotanical knowledge of the Lhoba was similar to published information on the Lhoba tribes in neighboring India.

Working with 23 local respondents with ages ranging from 20 to 65 years, the team collected ethnobotanical information for 59 species including medicinal plants, edible plants, and plants used for other aspects of daily life (e.g., fuelwood, dye, religious purposes, timber, tobacco substitutes, fodder).

Berberis pruinosa
Berberis pruinosa [Photo: Daderot, Wikimedia Commons]
Plants used for medicine, food, or both included Angelica apaensis, Berberis pruinosa, Cirsium eriophoroides, Coptis teeta, Dysosma tsayuensis, Erigeron breviscapus, Fargesia macclureana, Litsea cubeba, Litsea pungens, Polygonum tortuosum, Potentilla anserina, Quercus aquifolioides, Ribes himalense, Rosa omeiensis, Rubus biflorus, Sambucus adnata, Sinopodophyllum hexandrum, Sorbus thibetica, Usnea spp, Veronica anagallis-aquatica, and Zanthoxylum bungeanum.

In their conclusion, the authors note some ambivalent effects of integration and recommend investment in the conservation of Lhoba peoples’ traditional plant-derived culture:

“This study documented traditional ethnobotanical knowledge of the Lhoba in Nanyi Township, Milin County, Tibet. Fifty-nine wild plant species were found to be used in traditional medicines, food, dyeing technologies, and religion. These species mainly came from the surrounding areas. Some of these materials are important trade items in local Tibetan and Lhoba markets. The Lhoba in Nanyi use the same plant species for dyes and had similar bamboo weaving handcraft as tribes in adjacent areas in India. In contrast the Lhoba’s use of ethnomedicinal species has been deeply influenced by traditional Tibetan medicine and Chinese medicine. This study reported less plant species compared to other ethnic communities in Tibet. This may be due to the small size of the Lhoba population. The improved access to imported goods from outside their community and the development of tourism has changed the Lhoba lifestyle and production structure. These events signal the need to invest in mechanisms that can enable the Lhoba to benefit from the use of their traditional plant-derived culture and therefore support the continued conservation and use of these important plant resources.”

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

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